So far the 2014 season hasn't been kind to New York Giants cornerback Jayron Hosley.
First the Giants signed ALL the cornerbacks on the free agent market. Well, okay, not ALL the corners on the market, it was actually four -- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Walter Thurmond, Zack Bowman, and Trumaine McBride -- but it certainly felt like all of them.
Then Hosley learned that he would be suspended the first four games of the 2014 season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy
Finally, he played downright badly in the Giants' preseason games.
So, why did the Giants activate Hosley once he was eligible to return from his suspension.
Since I'm writing this, I wanted to go back and look at Hosley's play on-field in games that matter, when both the defense and offense are game planning.
Hosley vs. Dallas, Week 12, 2013
This play happened shortly after McBride got hurt in the fourth quarter, the series before Dallas' fateful game-winning drive.
McBride is highlighted in black at the top of the picture. Both he and Prince Amukamara are matched up in man coverage, with two safeties deep. The Giants are showing blitz, but wind up only sending four.
After the snap Romo looked to both outside receivers before hitting his check-down option (yellow). He had to get rid of the ball quickly because the Giants were applying pressure.
On this play Hosley forces his man to take an outside release, then stays in his hip pocket stride for stride down the field. Likewise, Prince is in tight coverage on the other side of the field.
That plus the pressure forced Romo to take the underneath route, which was ultimately knocked away by Rolle, and wouldn't have resulted in a first down anyway.
Hosley vs. Washington, Week 13, 2013
This game takes place the following week, and Hosley saw heavy use. Once again he is on the right side of the offense, highlighted in the black box. I believe he was matched up on Santana Moss while Prince got Pierre Garcon.
Like the previous play, the Giants were in a nickel package, and rushed four on this play (without showing blitz first)
The field gets stretched so much in this play it's only really practical to get a picture of the secondary, rather than the whole field. So, what you don't see is Mathias Kiwanuka applying pressure on Robert Griffin III, forcing him to get rid of the ball quickly.
Both Prince and Hosley have solid coverage on the edges, and there is good coverage between them as well.
I picked these two plays pretty much at random. I knew Hosley was the first player off the bench when McBride went down, so I wanted to see how he did against Dallas' potent offense. Despite the limited sample size, I thought he played well that game.
Pro Football Focus -- shout out to Invictus for getting me the numbers -- had him at a -0.4 on the game. He was targeted twice, and giving up one reception for 5 yards (a dump off in front of him when the defense was in zone coverage).
The Washington game was much more frustrating to watch. Thanks to Robert Griffin's mobility, Shanahan's running schemes, and Garcon and Moss' deep speed, Perry Fewell was at his "Radio-est" that game. As you can see, both Prince and Hosley were barely in the same stadium as the receivers they were covering. And that makes me take Pro Football Focus' grade of -0.7 with a grain of salt. He was targeted five times, giving up four receptions for 80 yards, but given the types of coverage being played, Hosley was rarely in position to make a play on the ball.
All in all, I thought Hosley played fairly well when he got the chance last year. He was inconsistent to be sure, but that also isn't unexpected of a young player who dealt with injuries and was coming off the bench. His biggest issue was his size, or lack thereof.
A good comparison for his game is "Mini-DRC". Like DRC, Hosley is at his best in off-man coverage, where he can stay close to receivers, and use his quick-twitch athleticism to stick close to receivers, then break on the ball. His problems come when bigger receivers can disregard his jams, and run support is a definite weakness.
And that, I think, was a big part of what plagued him on the field in the pre-season. The referees were "emphasizing" pass interference to the point of absurdity. For a player like Hosley, who's strength is tight coverage, being flagged for just being close to a receiver took him out of his game. As a result, to my eye, he was largely lost as to how to cover receivers "legally".
But that brings us right back to the original question: Why did the Giants bring him back? Well, with the loss of Walter Thurmond and injuries to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Zack Bowman, depth is suddenly a major issue. And Hosley has shown that he can cover NFL wide receivers when the NFL officiating crews aren't trying to make a point. Add to that his knowledge of the defense, and that's a combination they aren't likely to find on the street.